Illustration of a bottle of beer and an ash tray

Why Drinking Less Booze Makes It Easier to Quit Cigs

This is a sample from our ‘Quit Cigarettes’ mission, which is currently live in the UK. Our goal is to increase the amount of people in the UK who quit cigarettes. Read more about our first mission here.

Alcohol changes the way nicotine is metabolised and cutting back on the sauce could help you quit tobacco, according to research

If you want to quit smoking you might want to think about cutting back on alcohol too.

US research published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research in December 2018 found that heavy drinkers who were trying to stop smoking had better success rates when they also cut back on their drinking.

The reason could be that drinking alcohol likely changes the way that nicotine is absorbed into the body. Researchers at Oregon State University discovered that male participants in the study of 22 daily smokers, who were all heavy drinkers, absorbed less nicotine into the bloodstream when they cut their drinking from 29 to seven units each week.

Sarah Dermody, who lead the study, said: “This research suggests that heavy drinking changes the way nicotine is metabolised (the term used to describe how quickly a body breaks down this addictive substance) and that daily smoking and heavy drinking may best be treated together. Slowing a person’s nicotine metabolism rate through reduced drinking could provide an edge when trying to stop smoking, which is known to be a difficult task.”

Alcohol Undermines Willpower

Brian Jacobs, a member of the Central Register of Stop Smoking Therapists (CRSST) says that alcohol also lowers your inhibitions and undermines willpower.

“The two main reasons why people relapse when they stop smoking are excess stress and excess alcohol. This is because when people drink to excess, their resolve is lowered and they may do things they might later regret.”

He says that hypnosis can help make it easier for people to stop smoking and can also be useful in helping people drink less.

“When a person is in hypnosis they are more suggestible. Hypnosis works on the psychological addiction of smoking. It is very relaxing and can help you deal better with stressful situations, whether they result from problems at work, or at home.

"It is about changing the mind-set of the smoker, helping them realise they are not giving up something of value, but they are benefitting by becoming non-smokers as they will save money, save time and potentially save their lives by stopping smoking.” 

Avoid Trigger Situations

Certain situations can trigger heavy drinking and smoking sessions, explains Brian Jacobs. Greg, 37, an actor based in Bristol, says smoking and drinking remains part of thespian culture. 

“It’s pretty stressful acting in a play night after night and after the curtain comes down, we tend to head to the pub with our mates to have a few pints, smoke a few fags and generally wind down."

He went into retreat to lead a sober life and moved to a remote smallholding in Wales. He lived there in relative isolation for three months between acting jobs.

“The nearest pub was two miles away. I noticed that cutting back on drink made me crave ciggies less. I’ve now successfully given up smoking and try to keep my drinking moderate too. I’m sleeping much better and have more money for food, since actors don’t earn a lot at the best of times.”

Dermody said, “If someone wants to stop smoking, there are lots of ways you can make success more likely, apart from reducing your alcohol intake.”